A targeted letter from ‘California Voter Awareness Project’ was sent to individuals throughout Los Angeles in an attempt to shame them into voting in Tuesday’s vote.
The letter arrived in people’s mail hours before the polls opened in the citywide election. It contained a chart that had the individual’s voting history in the last three elections. There was also a list of names and addresses of neighbors and acquaintances that showed whether or not they voted in past elections.
The threatened to send out an updated chart after Tuesday’s election and warned that “other people you know will all know who voted and who did not vote.”
The letters did not have a return address and only some of the reported letters had stamps from Santa Ana. The ‘California Voter Awareness Project’ seems to be an untraceable organization that does not have a presence on the internet and is not registered with the state.
Due to the specific geographic targeting of two school districts involved in heated elections there is a suspicion that the senders hoped to influence those races. All of the letters were sent to people who lived in L.A. Unified’s District 4 or 6 where school board seats were up for election.
The motive could also be to influence the outcome of Charter Amendment C, the citywide voter initiative on police misconduct board.
The senders could also be unrelated to either campaign.
The recipients were not happy about the ‘invasion of privacy’ and the personalized nature of each letter. In one case reported by the L.A. Times, a wife received a letter with a list of her neighbor’s voting history while her husband got an almost identical letter but with a voting history list of his clients, a high school friend and others he knew in various ZIP Codes.
Voter shaming is not new and it has been historically effective. The ‘I Voted’ stickers are a normalized way of pressuring people to want to vote because other people will see if you do. These letters take that concept to a different level.
According to the L.A. Times, the L.A. County registrar’s office received calls about the letter and its attorneys are looking into whether any laws were violated. L.A. city ethics rules require campaign mailers to disclose who is sending them. But this letter does not pressure the recipient to vote a particular way so it might not be considered a “campaign communication.”